Trip report Selous Mikumi Ruaha June 2007

Jul 1st, 2007, 12:56 AM
  #1  
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Trip report Selous Mikumi Ruaha June 2007

Hi Everyone,

My wife and I are just back from a brilliant safari to Selous, Mikumi and Ruaha in Tanzania. We had a fantastic time and although the grass was still a bit high in Selous and Mikumi, due to the later than normal rains, we still had some good game viewing in those areas.

Ruaha was the gem though. It seems to have the same diversity and quantity of wildlife as the Serengeti (minus the wildebeest of course) without the hordes of people. On our all-day game drives we usually came across only two or three other vehicles. We really felt that we had the whole place to ourselves, which is exactly the experience we were after.

We did our safari with The East African Safari and Touring Company (EASTCO), which I had used in 2004 for my northern circuit safari, and again the service was excellent. We stayed at Beho Beho Special Campsite for three nights, one night at Vuma Hills Tented Camp, one night in Iringa (Isimila Hotel) and four nights under canvas once again at Mbagi Special Campsite on the Mwagusi River in Ruaha. We traveled by road from Dar es Salaam, where we had stayed at the superb Sea Cliff Hotel, to Selous Game Reserve via Kibiti. A long drive on some pretty rough tracks but you get to see some interesting villages on the way and because the people see relatively few tourists, they greet you with smiles and waves (especially the children) as you pass through. Photography in Selous at this time of the year is rather difficult as the game is widespread and very nervous (flight distances of 100m/100 yards for even the common impala and zebra!) so every photo has to be earned. Which is a reward in itself really. We did get good photos of giraffe, Nyassa Widebeest, impala, lion, elephant, eland, buffalo, Defassa and common waterbuck, spotted hyena, hippos, crocodiles, Nile monitor, baboons, vervet monkeys and myriad birds. We had an armed ranger in camp with us the whole time we were there as that is Game Department policy if you are staying at a campsite.

The drive to Mikumi NP along the eastern side of the Uluguru Mountains, via Kisaki, was spectacular, passing through villages and small towns and then through the mountains to Morogoro and on to Mikumi. What a road! Rough as guts but I kept thinking about how much we would have missed if we had flown instead. We knew it was going to be rough and were prepared for it. Eight hours to do 260kms! Got some good photos of Colobus monkeys when we stopped for lunch near Matombo.
Vuma Hills was very comfortable. We had tent number 3 with great views over the Mkata floodplains in the distance. We had time for a morning game drive in Mikumi NP and had good sightings of zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, baboons, elephant, impala, giraffe and, again, a multitude of birds. Good photos.

The drive to Iringa, on good bitumen road, was very scenic, following the valley of the Ruaha River for most of the way with interesting geology and some very impressive baobab forests. The Isimila Hotel in Iringa was okay, but one night was sufficient and the following morning we headed out towards Ruaha NP on a good dirt road. Arrived at the gate in time for lunch and then picked up a ranger from park HQ to show us to the campsite which was 20km away and difficult to find. The drive to the campsite was enough to convince me that this is my favourite park in Tanzania. We saw no other vehicles on the way, but animals everywhere. And they donít run away when you get near! Brilliant! The campsite was on the south bank of the Mwagusi Sand River, in the Mbagi area, surrounded by riverine forest. The dining tent overlooked the dry river bed and we would eat dinner listening to the sounds of the birds, bushbabies and the occasional leopard. The following four days consisted of morning and afternoon game drives (back in camp for brunch) alternating with all-day game drives with lunch boxes. The feeling of isolation was fantastic. We saw and photographed buffalo, impala, zebra, mongooses, elephant (charged twice!), giraffe, kudu, lion families, two big male lions on a bull buffalo kill (with attendant vultures and jackals) and very special sightings of cheetah, serval and leopard. There is an abundance of birds and Ruaha is particularly well endowed with raptors. The scenery is truly spectacular and the baobabs are beautiful trees.

EASTCO did a fabulous job. Bernard, our wonderful guide, has a gift for locating game (heís a great tracker) and also, very importantly on a safari like this, a great companion. I am proud to call him rafiki yangu, kaka zangu. The camp staff consisted of Paolo the chef (superb meals from a bush kitchen), Hassan, Izekial and Barbolo. They were all very efficient and friendly and made us feel right at home. They worked tirelessly setting up, breaking down and then setting up camp again. The Landrover TDi is a great workhorse and ours performed faultlessly. It had a pop-up roof which provided great sun protection. We are very appreciative of the efforts of Simon and Hartley and the office staff in Arusha for organizing such a successful safari.

I can also highly recommend the Sea Cliff Hotel in Dar es Salaam for those of you who are considering starting you safari from there. Beautiful rooms, with superb views of the Indian Ocean, and a very nice restaurant.

Iíll see what I can do about posting up some photos.

Steve
sd_kifaru is offline  
Jul 1st, 2007, 01:16 AM
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Just an addition:
We flew back to Dar on a Coastal Airlines 12-seater Cessna Caravan. We stopped in at Jongomero Camp in Selous and Beho Beho Camp and HQ in Selous before heading towards Dar. Too many ups and downs for me I'm afraid and I ended up as sick as a dog. Light aircraft and me don't mix very well but I recovered quickly enough when we finally landed in Dar es Salaam.
Steve
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Jul 1st, 2007, 02:36 AM
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Ah! isolation (few other vehicles) sounds fantastic.

looking forward to some pics.

Geoff.
GeoffG is offline  
Jul 1st, 2007, 03:07 PM
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Thanks for your report! Looking forward to your photos. I was in Selous last year.
Patty is offline  
Jul 1st, 2007, 07:48 PM
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Thanks for the wonderful report! I am very interested in going to Ruaha, definitely on my short list of new places to get to and your report makes it sound perfect for how I like to safari.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Jul 1st, 2007, 09:47 PM
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aby
 
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Thanks sd_kifaru !

i haven't been to Ruaha (yet) & i'd love to read more or see photos...

I loved your general concept (philosophy?) of Safari. Many on this forum would also like to be on safari with minimum human encounter; However, driving the country roads are considered a waste of time by most.
i hope many would read about your attitude
i have "argued" with a number of safari-goers on their plans of flight-only safari... it is beyond my understanding, especially for first-timers who fly from park to park, in a country they've never been to...
As a biologist, who loves nothing more than watching wildlife in their natural habitats, i still can't identify with those who fly from one camp to the next doing only game-drives... (as an example i couldn't persuade a single person on this forum that an encounter with Pokot vanishing culture should be on a Kenya itinerary ... even when Patty, for example, finally reached Baringo she came from the "wrong" side ;-> ...)

'many happy returns' to such parks

aby
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Jul 5th, 2007, 04:47 AM
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Hi,

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Ruaha.

I went there a number of years ago and really enjoyed the experience

I also really liked Iringa and the stone age site near there.

Malpa
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Jul 5th, 2007, 01:02 PM
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hmmmm. Another brilliant trip report. It's been over 3 years since our trip to Botswana, this sounds like a good idea for a second trip to somewhere new....
LadyOLeisure is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 06:27 PM
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Enjoyed your post so much. I went to the Selous in June and would have liked to added the Ruaha but opted insted for a trip to Gombe as my time was short. In the Selous we rarely passed other vehicles and in the Gombe we were the only 2 people visiting that day so needless to say we really had the front row seats! I was enthralled by the sensation of aloneness in such a vast country.
mingxa is offline  
Jul 6th, 2007, 10:03 PM
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If you had to choose one: Selous or Ruaha for three nights which would it be? This is for October.

Thanks.
Cheweyhead is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 11:32 PM
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Hi Cheweyhead,
Sorry, I've been away for a week. Bit of a hard question as I don't know what Selous would be like at that time of the year but I would probably still go for Ruaha in October. I think the risk of early rain is greater in Selous and if that happens the wildlife disperses very quickly away from the lakes and rivers and becomes harder to find. Ruaha would still be very dry and wildlife viewing opportunities near the water sources would be very good.
Steve
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Jul 11th, 2007, 05:54 AM
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Steve,

Thanks for the inspiring report. Good info on Selous and Ruaha. Will pictures follow?

Can you review the number of days at each location?
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 03:57 PM
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Finally put some photos together on Flikr website. Hope you can open them:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
For some reason the link is duplicated in this message and only the second link seems to work.
Steve
sd_kifaru is offline  
Jul 16th, 2007, 10:13 AM
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Link worked. Great photos! Thanks for sharing these.
Patty is offline  
Jul 16th, 2007, 11:19 AM
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Great pics! Are you sure that is a Colobus monkey? Really cool shots just looks different than the ones I've seen (maybe juvenile)...that zebra doesn't look so lucky---I doubt he'll last too long with a wound like that...may have wished they'd gotten it over with! : )
gatoratlarge is offline  
Jul 16th, 2007, 05:31 PM
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Hi gatoratlarge,
It's definately a mature Black and White Colobus. There are two distinct races of these monkeys in Tanzania. The northern race is white all the way down the tail while the southern race has a black tail with a white tuft.
Steve
sd_kifaru is offline  
Jul 16th, 2007, 07:44 PM
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Beautiful pictures. The lions at the water are wonderful. Such tiny little lion cubs. You have many great bird shots, flying, taking off, just perching. A different kind of wildebeest too. The high grass didn't impair these photos. Thanks for sharing. Southern Tanzania will be moving up the list for many of us.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 17th, 2007, 05:46 AM
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Steve,

Thanks for your report....and i enjoyed the pictures too! We read very few Southern Tanzania reports around here and this was brilliant!!!

Rgds,
Hari
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Jul 17th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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Great report and photos. That zebra that "survived" the lion...whoah. Loved the lion cubs! Glad to hear EASTCo came through for you, and thank you for naming your guide in particular. Was it very dusty camping in June?
Leely is offline  
Jul 17th, 2007, 04:42 PM
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Can you post your exact itinerary for us?
atravelynn is offline  

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